An Incurious Biographer

After posting my thoughts on the Isaacson Steve Jobs biography a couple weeks ago, I finally let myself check out some of the deeper pieces on the topic by folks I respect. John Siracusa’s take was particularly enlightening, as his familiarity with the existing sources empowers a deeply authoritative critique of the biography. But it’s John Gruber’s “Getting Steve Jobs Wrong” that validates my general feeling of dissatisfaction with Isaacson’s biography. This bit nails it:

Jobs understood technology but was not an engineer. He had profoundly exquisite taste but was not a designer. What it was that Jobs actually did is much of the mystery of his life and his work, and Isaacson, frustratingly, had seemingly little interest in that, or any recognition that there even was any sort of mystery as to just what Jobs’s gifts really were.

Yes, exactly! Isaacson does not seem interested in what made Jobs tick; that’s a real shame for those of us who are. I was ready to cut Isaacson a bit of slack, as writing a biography is very difficult, and writing a definitive one damn near impossible. But since Gruber hits the same point I tried make, and Siracusa has pretty thoroughly decimated Isaacson’s authority, I’m now far less willing to do so. Isaacson just seems incurious about his subject, whereas the best biographers are obsessed. A lack of curiosity ought to disqualify one for the job.

As Siracusa says, Steve Jobs picked the wrong guy.

Backtalk

Ron Savage wrote:

I assume Jobs deliberately picked 'the wrong guy'

Hi David

Given Jobs' personality (disorders), doesn't it seem rather more likely that Isaacson was chosen precisely on the basis that Jobs correctly perceived that he (Isaacson) would not try to fathom those aspects of Jobs' personality that he (Jobs) wanted to keep secret?

Cheers Ron

Theory wrote:

Re: I assume Jobs deliberately picked 'the wrong guy'

@Ron — No, because I think a more effective way to do it would be to have no official biographer at all.

Check out Hypercritical #43, wherein Siracusa addresses that idea in som depth (I listened to it after writing this post).

—Theory